AS - MUSIC1 - AQA - Compairing Musicals - Story/Background to All Pieces

The following cards hold information about the background/story to several musicals that can be compared in an OCR - Music AS Level - Essay Question that may ask to compare musicals. In this collection consists

Westside Story - Reference
Chicago - Reference
Sound of Music - Reference
South Pacific - Reference

The essay question is around 20 marks and you do not need to write about the story line, but understanding the concept of it will help you with your answer

- E.g. Compare two musicals showing drama with their musical features.'


West Side Story - The Story

West Side Story is an American musical with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and conception and choreography by Jerome Robbins. It was inspired by William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.
The story is set in the West 50s and West 60s of the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City in the mid-1950s, an ethnic, blue-collar neighborhood. The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks from Puerto Rico are taunted by the Jets, a white working-class group. The young protagonist, Tony, one of the Jets, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks.
The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theatre.
Bernstein's score for the musical has become extremely popular.

Reference ;

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Chicago - The Story

Based in the ‘Noble Experiment’ era in Chicago (America) and themed on the concept of ‘celebrity criminals’. It’s based on the play version written by a reporter (Maurine Dallas Watkins). The crimes and criminals recorded where real.

Maurine Dallas Watkins assigned to cover the 1924 trials of murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner for the Chicago Tribune (a newspaper).

-Beulah Annan – (Roxie Hart) – On 3rd April 1924 at 23 was accused of the murder of Harry Kalstedt. The ‘tribune’ reported she played the record “hula Lou” over and over for two hours before calling her husband saying she killed a man who “tried to make love to her”. She was on May 25 1934 found not guilty.
-Belva Gaertner (Velma) – A cabinet singer. The body of Walter Law was discovered in Belva’s abandoned car March 12 1924. Reported by two police that a woman was seen getting into the car followed by gunshots. A pistol and bottle of gin where found on the car floor. She was acquitted on June 6 1924
-Lawyers William Scott Stewart and W.W. O’Brien were models for a composite character ‘Billy Flynn’.

As their documents were proved so popular Watkin’s decided to write a play based on them.

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Sound of Music

The Sound of Music (1959) is a musical with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. It is based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Many songs from the musical have become standards, including the title song "The Sound of Music", "Edelweiss", "My Favorite Things", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" and "Do-Re-Mi".

Maria is found in a pasture, exulting in the musical inspiration she finds there. Maria is a postulant in Nonnberg Abbey, where she is constantly getting into mischief and is the nuns' despair.
Maria's life suddenly changes when a widowed Austrian Navy Captain, Georg von Trapp  writes to the abbey asking for a governess for his seven children. Mother Abbess asks Maria to take the position on a probationary basis; previous governesses, though, have not lasted long. She is worried about what awaits her at the von Trapp household, but is determined to succeed.


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South Pacific

South Pacific is a musical which centers on an American nurse stationed at a U.S. Naval base during World War II who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner but struggles to accept his mixed-race children.
A second romance concerns a U.S. Lieutenant who falls in love with a young Asian woman. The issue of racial prejudice is candidly explored throughout the musical, most pointedly in the song, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught".

South Pacific is considered to be one of the greatest Broadway musicals         -though I can't understand why. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950 after being premiered in 1949. Several of its songs have become popular standards. The Broadway production won 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Libretto, and it is the only musical production ever to have won all four Tony Awards for acting. The show was a critical and box office hit and has since enjoyed many successful revivals and tours, spawning a 1958 film (which in my opinion made it worse!) and other adaptations. - Yeah, I don't like this musical...

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